While some Nigerians continue to crave for mind altering substances like cocaine, marijuana and codeine as tools for escapism, the risks associated with the practice are deadly. As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark this yearâ€™s International Day Against Drug Abuse, CADAM and other stakeholders warn that the problem of drug abuse presents a clear and present danger in the country. Martins Ifijeh writes
From afar, Ayo Adegoke-Craig looked like every other successful man. The type you will regard as one of Nigeriaâ€™s elite even though he is without a pot belly. His shinny skin is obviously devoid of sun burn. When you hear him speak, you could tell he has travelled round the world.
Everything seemed right for the 66 year-old-man, that is, until he tells you how much drug addiction has reduced his profile and hard earned reputation to nothing. He is a professor who has lost his job, family and respect because of drugs.
During his hey days, Adegoke-Craig was the brightest among his peers; a â€˜giftâ€™ that earned him several accolades even in the academic world, both in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom where he studied, until he became a Professor of English and Semantics.
But he lost all goodwill, his job and family immediately drugs started eating deep into him. â€œIt got to a point in my life I couldnâ€™t think of any other way to feel good rather than taking marijuana, cocaine and other types of deadly substances. I started keeping a bizarre relationship with my loved ones. I couldnâ€™t keep up with my academic profession. And then I was relieved of my job,â€ Adegoke-Craig said.
â€œInitially when I started taking it, I felt it was helping me in writing and studying. It was much later I discovered it wasnâ€™t the reason, I was naturally a good writer. My family ran away because I couldnâ€™t have discussions with them without the influence of hard drugs. At a time I had to leave the UK, came to Nigeria to stay,â€ he added.
Hard drugs didnâ€™t only cost Adegoke-Craig his career and family. It also reduced him to a laughing stock; the type that could be regarded as a very poor primary school drop-out. â€œI had to leave the UK so I could find a solution to the kind of life I had put myself. I came to Nigeria a pauper, a â€˜bachelorâ€™ and a totally reduced man. I consciously started drug use, but it became a torn in my flesh afterwards. Leaving it wasnâ€™t so easy.
â€œIt was at this point I started looking for help, because I was fast losing my pride. Food became my worst enemy, I lost a lot of weight, and I could wear one shirt for days because I only had one interest, which was to satisfy my body.
â€œI have learnâ€™t one thing in life now; hard drugs can reduce a professor to the level of a mechanic who is also on drugs. It does not discriminate, it will reduce you to its level until you become a scum to the society,â€ Adegoke-Craig said.
The professor, whose quest for solutions took him to three different countries, said he first went to Asia where they told him with acupuncture he would be fine and free from the addiction, but the more he takesthe treatment, the more he was getting the urge to take drugs.
â€œI then had to continue my research until I discovered there was a therapy in Bolivia.Like someone who was dedicated to lead a normal life, I embarked on another journey to Bolivia where I was told the coca leafs would be used for the treatment that can help me out of addiction.
â€œAfter the treatment, I didnâ€™t just continue the life, I even bought cocaine in large quantity in that country, which I brought back along with me to Nigeria. I went to Bolivia to get help, but I left there with bags of cocaine.
â€œI was becoming more miserable by the day. That was how I bumped into a report by a certain Harvard University professor who said drug abuse was a strong power and that only a higher power could cure it. That was when I knew all I needed was a rehabilitation centre with a touch of God in it. I have undergone the rehabilitation and am free from drugs,â€ Adegoke-Craig said.
While he is free from drugs now, the UK-trained professor lost everything along with it. But he is lucky he could come out of it, and hopes other drug addicts in the country, especially youths learn from his experience and run from the practice.
â€œAll I want to do now is dedicate my life to raising awareness on the dangers of drug use, its addiction consequence, among others,â€ the professor said.
Adegoke-Craig is just one among Nigerians who are lucky to come out of drug addiction alive, even though he still lost many things, including his job.
Records show about 40 per cent of Nigerian youths are involved in one form of drug abuse or the other; a practice stakeholders say fuel various vices, including armed robbery, killing, kidnapping, raping, among others.
Recently, it has been observed that the many Nigerian youths have moved from the conventional drug use known to average Nigerians like cocaine or marijuana, into bizarre and ridiculous ones like early morning inhalation of smell from latrines, inhalation of methylated spirit and even fuel. They believed these inhalations makes them feel good.
It is in tackling these seemingly unnoticed virus in the society that Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry (CADAM) staged a walk to raise alarm over the increased patronage of drugs and other mind altering substances, as well as create awareness on the dangers associated with both the known drug use methods and the ridiculously bizarre ones.
No wonder the National Chairman, CADAM, Dr. Dokun Adedeji says he feels broken in his heart for youths indulging in such dream-killing practices, noting that many crimes like kidnapping and killing have been committed because of quest for ecstasy.
He said while intake of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and cigarette were commonly known by Nigerian parents and the society, it was becoming more difficult to monitor wards and youths in the society because of the unconventional drug use.
â€œMajority of our youths now use tramadol, codeine, rohypnol, skunk, and certain substances which are somewhat difficult for the average parent to categorise as drugs. Most of our prescription drugs are now easy for youths and other persons involved in the trade to purchase.
â€œBut what is more worrisome now is that our youths have moved from the bizarre to the ridiculous. You find some of our youths packing dirts from the gutter and sniffing it, believing it would make them â€˜highâ€™. Some will wake up in the morning, go to latrines and put their noses down to sniff the smell from it until they feel they are â€˜highâ€™ on it. You know the gum shoe-makers use, some of our youths now take them. Others inhale methylated spirits, nail polish remover, among others.â€
He said these were scary and ridiculous practices that must make well-meaning Nigerians, and the society in general rise up against it, adding that the practice was gaining notoriety among many youths in the country.
But how can parents and caregivers know when their children are on drugs since the practice has moved from the known marijuana, cocaine or cigarettes, to the bizarre-but-difficult-to-notice methods? Adedeji provides a guide. He says when you notice your child is drinking a particular soft drink for long, there is need to monitor him or her to know if there is an external substance in such drink.
â€œImaging a child sniffing methylated spirit in the house, it will be difficult for the parents to know their child is on drugs. I know of a mother who was observant enough to know that her methylated spirit always disappeared anytime she buys. She had to monitor her son until she discovered he was the one taking it. So parents need to be very observant, otherwise children under our very nose will be on drugs, yet we wonâ€™t know.
â€œHave you heard about ‘gegemu’? It’s a plant planted at home to drive away snakes. But do you know in one of the schools we went to, some of the guys told us they pluck the leaves and cook them, then drink the water. They also dry the leaf, grind and sniff it.
â€œIn the North there is something called â€œzakaniâ€. It is a seed they grind and sniff. There is a category of youths that kill scorpion, dry it, grind and then sniff it. We are saying these so that parents and the society can know what to look out for,â€ he added.
He said these vices lead to broken marriages, abrupt school termination, cultism, aborted dreams and even madness, adding that persons involved in the practice often do not grow to achieve their potentials.
A cleric in charge of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Lagos Province 60, Pastor Ephraim Osunde who doubles as a member of board of trustee for CADAM, said it was unfortunate that most of the people in rehabilitation centres were from well-to-do homes and have been making waves in their different fields, but end up having mental issues as a result of drug consumption.
The Human Resources Director, Cadbury, Mr. Topeka Philips who also took active part in the campaign exercise, said it was very important that drug abuse was kicked out of Nigeria to secure a future for the youths.
As a mother lending her voice to the campaign, the General Manager Eko FM, Mrs. Ayo Shotonwa, frowns at the silence over increased drug use. â€œIt is not only when people use cocaine or marijuana that we should talk about drug abuse. Our youths have devised other methods, and this must be checked,â€ she added.
On her part, a Superintendent of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mrs. Maitanmi Funmilayo , said the damages done by drugs were enormous, adding that it causes physical, psychological and economic consequences.
â€œPhysical consequence could be deformity of the body. There are more than 500 chemical components in cannabis. The most powerful one is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a very active chemical that within 14 seconds travel to the brain tissue where it can do a lot of harm. It can lead to madness.
â€œDrug use has caused many people to indulge in vices like armed robbery, killing, kidnapping, and raping. It is difficult for anyone to kill without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
â€œIt’s so unfortunate that our ladies are today into drug consumption. Most of them will want to get drugs of their choice but will not be able to afford it. As a result they dive into crime and prostitution and at the end of the day they get infected with HIV/AIDS.
â€œSo we are calling on Nigerians to join hands so that we can collectively fight drug abuse in the country,â€ she said.